This morning I want you to help me preach. I hereby give each of you an opportunity to express yourself. I am counting on your helping me make some powerful points without opening your mouth or making a sound. I sincerely need your help.

"How can we make points without speaking?" I will ask questions you can answer by raising your hand. By raising your hand, you can talk to me and say something to everyone here. My questions are simple. They are neither designed nor intended to make anyone feel awkward. They are not trick questions. And there is an obvious purpose for them. I promise you there is a Bible point, a New Testament teaching in this that I will emphasize.

I am not attempting to coerce anyone to do anything. If you do not wish to raise your hand you surely do not have to. If you are willing to raise your hand, I appreciate your help. Please look at the audience. I really appreciate the teens and the college students sitting up front. This morning it is not rude for you to look at the audience. In fact, I encourage you to.

Let me explain why I am doing this. I could just tell you these things. If I did, they would just "fly right by you," or you would say, "He doesn't know what he is talking about!" or you would say, "Why doesn't he talk about something important?" This morning you can emphasize facts with a force I cannot.

I ask that when you hold your hand up; you hold it up long enough for others to see.

Are we ever different from each other! All those different background experiences create different ways of feeling, different values, and different ways to look at the world. And all those differences affect us spiritually.

  1. I want to share something about the church of Christ in America that is not exciting but is very important.
    1. In the 1940's after World War II and during most of the 1950's, often the strongest and most active congregations of the church of Christ were found in farm areas.
      1. Congregations found in a city setting were mostly found in small towns.
      2. Commonly, those congregations were not the strongest congregations.
    2. In the 1960s and 1970s a major transition began in the churches of Christ.
      1. A lot of things were happening in our country:
        1. The Vietnam war caused all kinds of internal conflict in this nation.
        2. The first major social separation between young people and adults of this nation occurred.
        3. Going to college became a real option for many high school graduates.
      2. Increasingly families could not make a living on small farms, so people began moving to city settings to find work.
      3. In this shift, more and more members of the church of Christ began moving to cities and being a part of or beginning congregations in the city.
      4. Increasingly you had city congregations with a majority of members who came from the farm.
    3. In the 1980s and 1990s the churches of Christ in this country experienced another major transition.
      1. We became primarily a city church.
        1. Many farm community churches that were strong churches began to decline and even die.
        2. When the kids finished high school, they went to college or trade school.
        3. When they finished their studies, they moved where the jobs were.
      2. Many farm community congregations became smaller and smaller and many city congregations became larger and more active.
        1. But the leadership of the church often was composed of men who grew up on the farm.
        2. Increasingly we had leaders of congregations who came from the farm trying to provide guidance for people who never lived on a farm.
        3. Increasingly members who attended a college grew in number.
        4. Increasingly the spiritual challenges members faced in every day life were not even a part of the life experiences of those leading congregations.
    4. By the year 2000 many churches of Christ were in major crisis.
      1. So much change happened in our lives so fast we did not even understand each other--and too many times we did not try to understand each other.
      2. Our personal preferences were elevated to the status of doctrine, and we got very emotional about our doctrines based on preferences.

  2. 2000 years ago a man you know as Paul was very inflexible and dogmatic in his convictions.
    1. He knew what God wanted and he know how God wanted things done.
      1. Anyone radically disagreeing with him was arrested.
      2. He tried to physically force people to agree with him.
      3. It was his view or no view--he KNEW the will of God--he had his understanding of the scripture to prove it.
    2. Then he met Jesus and understood Jesus was the Christ.
      1. What a transformation!
      2. Listen to what he said to quarreling, fighting Christians in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23.
        For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.
    3. All over the world, today Christians will pray to God through Jesus Christ.
      1. Somewhere in West Africa a Christian man has already prayed in a congregation, "Papa God, we do thank you plenty."
      2. Somewhere in China, prayers rise in Chinese; in Russia, prayers rise in Russian; in Poland prayers rise in Polish, and the same has or will happen in Israel, Palestine, India, Thailand, and Laos.
      3. The only real thing we have in common with any of those Christians is Jesus Christ.

The churches of Christ in America face several enormous crises. One of those enormous crises is our ability to respect and understand each other.

Paul gave this warning to Galatian congregations who were giving each other a lot of grief:
Galatians 5:15 But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.

I may have extreme difficulty relating to and loving you if you do not think like I think and feel like I feel. I may have extreme difficulty, but God has no difficulty at all!

God has invested far too much in your salvation for me to ignore you. How dare I place stumbling blocks in front of someone for whom Christ died?

If all you and I have in common is Jesus Christ, we have everything from creation to eternity in common.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 24 February 2002

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